Tag Archives: creativity

Not So Big House: 5 Ways To Make Your Home Feel Bigger

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Alta House: view of Kitchen. Note windows and skylights for ample daylighting, variety of ceiling heights, and cozy inglenook space with windows on two sides.

Many homeowners are now gearing up to create that long-postponed new or remodeled home. Many of those homeowners are keen to attain more home at less expense, and so in our architectural practice we are seeing resurgent interest in the Not So Big House.

The Not So Big House movement was kicked off by the 1998 publication of The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka. In it is spelled out a comprehensive strategy to build smaller, more cost effectively, and smarter by favoring quality over quantity. The book was an instant phenomenon, and the movement has understandably experienced resurgent, sustained immediacy over the past several years.

Here are five key ways to attain the benefits of the Not So Big House in your new home or remodel:

1. If You Use It, You Should See It
Rooms that are isolated from other spaces, hidden behind hallways or staircases first of all tend not to be used and secondly contribute to a house that feels kludgy, closed in, and claustrophobic. Certainly some rooms do need privacy, but if you can, opening up the view through and between the kitchen, family area, dining area, study, and other public spaces you will contribute to a feeling of lightness and spaciousness throughout the home. Doors between these areas can be dispensed with entirely, building instead a framed opening a foot or two wider than a regular doorway. And even if you can’t open an intervening wall completely, you can make an interior window instead. That little strategy by itself will make your home both feel and live bigger.

View from bedroom, through bathroom, to windows beyond. To create spaciousness the owners elected to dispense with any intervening wall.

View from bedroom, through bathroom, to windows beyond. To create spaciousness the owners elected to dispense with any intervening wall.

Doors between these areas can be dispensed with entirely, building instead a framed opening a foot or two wider than a regular doorway. And even if you can’t open an intervening wall completely, you can make an interior window instead. That little strategy by itself will make your home both feel and live bigger.

2. The Diagonal View
Another secret to making your house feel larger is opening up a diagonal view, a line-of-sight that extends from one corner of the house to another. To do this, in new construction we make sure there are no intervening walls. In remodels, consider removing all or part of a wall that’s blocking that line-of-sight. If that’s outside of your comfort zone, again you might consider installing a framed opening or interior window. The opening need not be inordinately large, but instead need only be strategically placed, to achieve the desired result.

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Alta House: note spiral stair featured as sculptural element highlighted by daylighting. Not hidden behind claustrophobic walls, instead it’s an architectural focal point on a diagonal line-of-sight.

3. Double Duty
The floor plans of many of today’s homes have failed to keep pace with the realities of actual lifestyle. For example, for many families today the formal living room is in reality just expensive, rarely-entered real estate used to showcase rarely-utilized furnishings. Instead, consider consolidating the living area with dining area resulting in a space that can serve both formal and informal functions. If a formal dining room is an essential commodity, consider lining it with bookshelves so it can double as a library. The result will be an elegant, lived-in sensibility which at the same time frees up space elsewhere that can be used for something else, such much-needed additional resources in your home office or media room.

4. Shelter Around Activity
Children instinctively understand the concept of creating shelter around a specific activity, for example creating cozy playhouses out of cardboard boxes. This is instinctual in adults, too, and an alcove or inglenook is the adult equivalent of the cardboard box, doing the double duty of providing an alternative space for dedicated activity within a larger space. The larger space feels larger by contrast with the smaller, while the nook provides semi-private comfort for dedicated activities.

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Alta House: diagonal line of sight from the kitchen reveals variety of ceiling heights, open upper landing, and window openings in interior walls used to create a feeling of spaciousness.

5. Vary Ceiling Heights
In order to establish variety and contrast, employ the strategy of adjusting and varying the height of the ceilings. For example, a lower ceiling over the kitchen, a medium-height ceiling over the dining area, and a tall ceiling over the entry will provide spatial contrast, a hierarchy of activity spaces, so that the entire house actually ends up living larger. This is a strategy readily employed in new construction. In the case of the remodel, raising a ceiling can be accomplished by raising the roof by means of a dormer. An even more affordable solution is to lower parts of the ceiling without changes to the support structure. When you lower a ceiling, you’re not affecting the structure, thus making it a relatively easy strategy to accomplish.

5 Kitchen Remodel Ideas That Pay Off

Kitchens are a place of sustenance and sociability. Food, family, and friends mingle to create a winning combination. So it makes perfect sense that remodels are so often geared toward the kitchen. What about thinking of your kitchen in the long-term sense, in terms of investment and return? Will your kitchen remodel projects be a positive contribution to your home’s value or will they erode that value? Continue reading

Buildings that Move

Kinetic brise soleil at the Milwaukee Art MuseumKinetic architecture is a concept through which buildings are designed to allow parts of the structure to move, without reducing overall structural integrity. A building’s capability for motion can be used just to enhance its aesthetic qualities, respond to environmental conditions, and/or perform functions that would be impossible for a static structure. The possibilities for practical implementations of kinetic architecture increased sharply in the late 20th century due to advances in mechanics, electronics, and robotics. Continue reading

The Sea Ranch Style

The Architecture of Sea RanchConceived at a time when nature and utopian ideals were becoming increasingly prevalent in American culture and modern architecture, the Northern California community of Sea Ranch was developed in the early 1960s by architect and planner Al Boeke. Boeke envisioned a community that would preserve the area’s natural, rugged beauty and coastline, and would be based on ecological principles with minimal impact on the native environment. Continue reading

Architectural Weathering Steel

Weathering steel, often referred to by the generic trademark CorTen steel, is a group of steel alloys developed to eliminate the need for painting and form a stable, ruddy appearance after a curing period by exposure to weather. In architectural applications it is used most often as wall and/or roof cladding. Continue reading

The Connection Between Space and Wellness

As living beings, we are our environment.  Design plays a significant role in human health, and the way that we configure and manipulate elements in a space can mean more to its inhabitants than whether they like the color of the walls, or the texture of the carpet.  On the most basic level certain environmental factors have universal effects on all of us – i.e. daylight & circadian rhythm.  In other cases these environmental factors are very personal and specific, based on our genetic wiring.  Genetics set the stage and the environment activates those genes in different ways.  Continue reading

The Architectural Monument at Thiepval

Viator_Shutterstock_99130One of my favorite architectural monuments is British Sir Edwin Lutyens Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, commemorating the lives lost at the first Battle of the Somme, fought 100-years-on now, in May 1916.

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Among his other credentials, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) was one of the principal architects of the cemeteries and memorials of the First World War. Continue reading

Sun Control and Shading Devices

fh150jad_cropped_house copyThere are many reasons to control the amount of sunlight admitted into a building. In warm, sunny climates excess solar gain will result in overheating, in cold and temperate climates winter sun entering south-facing windows can contribute to passive solar heating, and in any event controlling and diffusing natural illumination will improve daylighting. Continue reading

What is Architectural Design Excellence?

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In achieving architectural design excellence there are infinite Everests which beckon us: which Everest should we climb?

“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
Sir Christopher Wren, 1632-1723

There are as many criteria for defining design excellence in architecture as there are architectural designs. And climbing to the summit of design excellence is analogous to that of climbing Mount Everest. Yet in architectural design there are infinite Everests which beckon: which Everest should we climb? Continue reading

A Room With a View

living-room-nature-viewIf you were asked to list the main criteria you would like for your dream home, what would they be?

I’m guessing that high up on your wish list might be for your home to be situated in a location with a breathtaking view – perhaps by the sea, in the mountains, countryside or in a forest. And to be able to enjoy the scenery with a panoramic vista of it through your windows. We are all attracted to rooms that have an amazing view. Continue reading